From an idea towards a thing

Submitted by jono on 28 Mar 2024.

It is often said that it is an achievement in and of itself simply getting to the start line of an expedition. First there is an idea without commitment. That can be played around with. On the off-chance that something might happen there might be some "preparation". I purchased a suitable sleeping bag ("new with tags", a bargain!) and snapped up a bivvy-bag to too. That's right, focus on the easy stuff first!

A modicum of due diligence is performed. Is the proposition practical? How far is the voyage? What weather and sea conditions can be expected? What are the dangers? This information must be processed, and the question asked: How do I feel about all this? In truth, some things make me uneasy. Sea conditions will surely be challenging: Pacific swells, fog, desolate isolation, or elsewhere shipping and fishing vessels that would mow me down. I can expect to encounter the coastguard and will have to explain myself. Hopefully I can sail a good distance, and therefore demonstrate myself as capable, before our (any attempt at!) conversation happens.

I check in with myself. I turned 50 this month. How is my energy and bodily comfort? Not bad! I have been sailing and winging lots lately. The skills are still there even if my eyesight is going.

I begin to tell people of the plan. And soon I have told more than I can remember and it is no longer a secret. Loft/Unifiber offer support with the gear. I accept, but know that the decision to go still isn’t settled.

I delay by focusing on the board. I have ideas for an expedition board that were born when punching through waves on my journey round Europe: A wave piercing bow, a home for the paddle that isn’t under my feet, available deck space between the straps to be able to gybe unhindered. The objective being a more ergonomic experience. I focus on these and convert my craft. The design is an improvement. Fingers crossed it won’t break.

I have already checked-out airline baggage policy, and it seems there are a few carriers who will take a 3.8-metre-long board. A contact who lives in Japan – Paul - offers to be my shepherd in Japan. Paul becomes the start location. This was meant to be, says a selectively-mystical inner voice. I am ready to commit.

That was two weeks ago, but my confidence about finding an airline was misplaced. None will take the board despite their policies that imply otherwise. Apparently, it all changed post the Lockerbie bombing. Airline holds were partitioned after that, and it became much more difficult to fly with longer items of checked-baggage. Maybe, though I suspect that it is simply easier to say no to an unusual request. There is no point in being bolshy, flying is privilege rather than a right, and that is even more the case when you have a Raceboard under your arm.

A helpful cargo operator comes to the rescue. For a three figure sum the board can go in the hold of the same aeroplane where I had been told that it simply won’t fit! As the only option it is a good option. I fill out the required forms to send the board to Japan a few days ahead of me, and it seems that I am a big step closer to this journey becoming a reality. The fees for the board are a dent in my finances but it is important to seal the solution and move onto other preparations. A website, and this blog post, being the start of those.

Update 08/04/2024

The cargo option fell through. That is a lesson learnt that until you have a receipt you don't have anything. Time running short now to get this sorted.

Update 23/04/2024

After a month of failing to find a solution I had full understanding that I might not be heading to Japan this year. However, I did have an airline industry contact working behind the scenes on my behalf, and that gave me one last iron in the fire. If this attempt also failed I would concede defeat and pivot to a (more local and far less concerning!) plan B. My destiny rested on this final roll of the dice. But this time the odds were more favourable, thanks to the efforts of my contact. After four hours on the telephone to customer support, with me digging from my end and my contact digging from the other, our enquiries became linked. We had burrowed through the armour of customer support! A case number was assigned to my enquiry. I was returned to the loop of music for another half hour, and when the operator returned he explained that my request had been authorised. It was as if there had never been a problem. The result is that the board and I are now booked to go to Japan, and it is overdue that this website goes live!


Tagged with: Preparation